ECE ILLINOIS alums are some of the most interesting people we know. To celebrate them, we’ve decided to ask them questions both serious and fun. Here, you’ll find their Ten Answers.
Nadir Ahmad (BSCompE ’01, BA economics ’01) is founder and CEO of Dowling Street, a consultancy that combines classic management consulting with political strategy for business. Nadir also holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. Nadir is originally from Nebraska and now lives in Manhattan. He still believes the best college basketball teams are from the Midwest.
What makes you feel energized?
I’m energized by helping people gain new perspectives that unlock strategies for problems. Seeing the optimism that comes with new options is powerful.
Favorite memory from your time on campus?
My favorite memory from campus was building a model magnetic levitation (mag-lev) train in Ricardo Uribe’s laboratory (ADSL). He pushed us to explore projects with endless curiosity and imagination. It was a playground to experiment with things that seemed outlandish or unconventional.
What's the best advice you've ever heard?
Always assume positive intent in others. It’s simple but it dramatically changes your outlook and allows you to be more fully present when an issue presents itself.
What aspect of your career are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of starting Dowling Street, which merges my three passions: analytical thinking, management, and political strategy.
In what circumstances are you most productive?
I’m most productive as soon as I recognize the problem in front me is not the same as something I’ve seen before. As soon as that happens, I get into a zone of innovation and creativity. That’s when the fun begins.
How do you deal with an obstacle?
I approach these difficult situations with a healthy dose of curiosity and compassion. I believe the obstacle is often just the tip of a larger iceberg. I routinely ask the question, "What is really going on here?”
How did your time at Illinois affect your career?
My time at Illinois shaped how I break down problems, understand information, and pay attention to details. I’m sure that most engineers could say the same, and I’ve found these same skills translate into non-engineering roles.
How would you spend 30 minutes of free time?
I'd call my parents. My travel schedule is really hectic and they do an impressive job of remembering where I am. Given a free moment, I check in with them.
What technical advancement could you not live without?
My smartphone (and the networks that make it possible). My life runs on that piece of technology.
What talent do you have that surprises people?
I can recite lyrics for one-hit wonders that were released in the 1990s. Think Vanilla Ice, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and Skee-Lo.
This story first appeared in the fall 2015 issue of Resonance, ECE ILLINOIS' biannual magazine.